Craig Federighi: Apple Will Continue to ‘Protect Our Customers’ Amid ‘Innovation’ in Privacy Exploitation

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Following WWDC, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi said that Apple will continue to protect its customers amid “innovation” in the world of privacy exploitation and that Apple believes it “can largely stay ahead” of the curve to protect users.

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In an exclusive interview with Fast Company, Federighi talked about new announcements that Apple made during WWDC on Monday, including Private Relay for iCloud+. Many are attributing the feature to a VPN, but Federighi notes that VPNs require users to trust the VPN provider with their data, whereas Private Relay doesn’t include the need for a third party to encrypt and redirect the internet traffic.

Why did Apple develop this technology rather than build a more conventional VPN into its operating systems? “Core to the nature of the internet is that the IP address is traditionally exposed between the requester and the host – and that has some privacy knock on effects that aren’t always understandable to users and certainly aren’t always desirable to users. And so that’s a problem we wanted to solve,” says Federighi. He notes an unprotected IP has led to vectors for abuse by bad actors. “VPNs are a technology that has sought to provide some of those protections, but they do involve putting a lot of trust in a single centralized entity: the VPN provider. And that’s a lot of responsibility for that intermediary, and involves the user making a really difficult trust decision about exposing all of that information to a single entity.”

Federighi further said that Apple wanted to remove the need for users to trust it, or another company, allowing them to enjoy the end-user experience without the privacy trade-off.

“We hope users believe in Apple as a trustworthy intermediary, but we didn’t even want you to have to trust us [because] we don’t have this ability to simultaneously source your IP and the destination where you’re going to–and that’s unlike VPNs. And so we wanted to provide many of the benefits that people are seeking when in the past they’ve decided to use a VPN, but not force that difficult and conceivably perilous privacy trade-off in terms of trusting it a single intermediary.”

Speaking generally about Apple’s privacy values, and some resistance to them from companies like Facebook, Federighi said that Apple believes it can continue to lead the industry, and especially as the incentives for finding privacy “exploitations” are high.

“I think the analogy with security is apt,” Federighi says of the feline-and-rodent comparison. “The incentives for ‘innovation’ in the exploitation world are high, and so there is a lot of advancement in the art of tracking; a lot of advancement in the arts of security exploits. And so, in both areas, we think there’s going to continue to be a cat and mouse game. We think we bring a lot of tools to that fight, and we can largely stay ahead of it and protect our customers. But it’s something we recognize as a battle we will be fighting for years to come.”

The full interview which includes Federighi talking about how governments and the industry should treat privacy can be read on Fast Comapny.

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